Illustration vs. Photo

This summer, I shared an illustration project that had gotten killed—it was a 3-book middle-grade series for Penguin. I wanted to make another post about it, now that the new covers have been finalized, because I had the unique position in this case of being the illustrator, as well as the designer & art director—and it proved to be a very interesting experience.


Being a full-time staff designer, I had to pitch myself anonymously to my publisher to get this illustration assignment. I was thrilled to get the job and had a great time creating final art for 2 of the books. I also, however, had to sit through the big sales meeting where they ultimately decided that photography was a better direction for this particular series.


I know to some of my illustration friends, it sounded like torture to put myself directly into that meeting! But, having 8 years of experience in a big publishing house I know that feedback is just part of the creative process and not always a reflection on if the art is good or not; Rather it’s a decision on what is best for the project based on genre, trends, competition, author sales, positioning…and about a zillion other things. I’d being lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see my art published for the final book, but I still completely enjoyed creating it. And, as a designer my challenge became solving the project in a new way (there’s always more than one good way!) So, I got to put on my Art Director cap and do a photoshoot for the final covers. The shoot was so much fun (come on, how often do you get to photograph a little girl on a flying carpet?!) and ultimately I am still pleased with the outcome of the covers. All around, everyone in house—as well as the author—was happier with these sleeker, more mass-commercial photographic packages.


The books go one sale next June, but since they are already listed on Amazon, I wanted to share the final covers as well as a little of the back story. Here’s 2 of them-side by side with the illustrations I had originally done. You can see I still was able to incorporate some of my swirly, decorative illustrated elements into the background.



All in all, it was a fun and interesting project for me, from both my viewpoints as an illustrator and a designer/art director. I definitely feel like having the behind-the-scenes look at a project like this is so beneficial for me in understanding the publishing industry overall.
…And the books themselves are really cute! Check ’em out! 🙂

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